Balmain Paris Fashion Week 2014
Almost the best part of the Balmain show was hearing Olivier Rousteing’s spontaneous emotional speech about his identity as a young, black, French designer. “I’m screaming it loud. It’s all about ethnicity and freedom,” he said, taking a deep breath, backstage. “I am 28 years old. I’m proud of having Rihanna as my friend. I’m proud of having all those girls of different cultures modeling for me. Sometimes, it’s not necessary to go to Miami or Vegas, or the fifties or sixties for inspiration—you can just look around you. I’m showing that this is me. I’m part of my generation.”
RiRi, en route in the disastrous Paris traffic, didn’t arrive in time to hear him say that. She’d just gone one better than “fashionably late” (as was the case with Katy Perry at Moschino in Milan), and was “fashionably too late,” missing the show altogether.
That was too bad, because Rihanna’s the one who has brought Rousteing out of himself—or at least, out of the disco style he inherited from his predecessor. Rousteing’s world is a generation away from the last days of disco. His is the consciousness of hip-hop pop, and that connects him with what’s happening on the street—the hundreds of dressed-up Parisian girls and boys of every ethnicity who’d gathered on the street outside the Hôtel de Ville show venue in the hopes of glimpsing Rihanna were shrieking, jumping-up-and-down proof of that.
Rousteing’s runway, led by Jourdan Dunn in an oversize khaki leather jacket, satin cargo pants, and giant gold hoop earrings, had a sound track that said it all: a 50 Cent remix by Timbaland and Justin Timberlake (i.e., a merge of nineties and now). It read as a continuation of Rousteing’s pre-fall, which was triggered by Peter Beard’s photographs of Iman and the designer’s aforementioned childhood hero-worship of 50 Cent. In other words, it was a controlled, highly worked mash-up of Masai-inspired heavy beadwork, latticed leather, zebra prints, draped tailoring, and big, quilted biker-derived jackets. Naturally, there was nothing in it that Rihanna wouldn’t wear, or Instagram herself wearing, to the delight of her zillion followers.